Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has finally accepted his millions haven’t done much good for the team (or, alternatively, aren’t enough to compete with Russian and Middle Eastern billions) and has announced he is selling the club.
Lerner bought a majority of the football team for £62.6m in 2006 and the club were then 6th in the Premier League for three seasons running under former manager Martin O’Neill. However, they slid inexorably down the table in recent years and finished 15th this season, just five points from being relegated from the bit money league.
‘I have come to know well that fates are fickle in the business of English football. And I feel that I have pushed mine well past the limit,’ Lerner, who also owns American football NFL team Cleveland Browns, said in a statement.
‘On a personal level it is time for me, like the Shunammite, to dwell among my own and get on with other aspects of my career, following a sale.’ Poetic and a tad obscure, but doesn’t mask the fact Lerner may well be getting out before things get any worse – the club is expected to be flogged for £200m, about £100m less than the American’s estimated total investment in it.
Fellow Americans and NFL team owners (Florida’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers) the Glazer family have also overseen a decline in footballing fortunes this season, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s replacement David Moyes failed to get a grip on his new team and was summarily booted out. If the new manager, rumoured to be Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal, doesn’t manage to propel Man U back to winning ways, the Glazers may, like Lerner, look for an exit back across the Atlantic.
However, given they’ve made a killing from their debt-laden investment in the reds, the Glazers are more likely to stay put – at least for now. Pakistani American billionaire Shahid Khan’s (another NFL owner – Florida team Jacksonville Jaguars) purchase of Fulham last July for a rumoured £150-200m, on the other hand, will not be paying off, after the team were relegated to the Championship at the end of this season. Perhaps Americans are better off sticking with their version of football.